Ways to Add Meaning and Continuity to the Holidays
What are your holiday traditions? If you'd like to add more, or are just starting out and want to choose some new traditions, then this list may just get you inspired. Add one or two new ones a year, and you'll find yourself looking forward to them as December rolls around.
A Traditions Book - Use a beautiful blank book (with acid-free pages) to record your holiday traditions. Make a note of the year at the top of the page... then write down where you lived (helpful if you move frequently), what the tree looked like, traditions you observed, and who was there. Ask guests and visitors to write a few lines as well. Record special gifts given or received. Take photos of the tree, your family, and guests, and add these to the book. It should be kept on a bookshelf (since closed storage may tend to make it musty).
Advent Calendars - One family we know has 3 different Advent calendars that have a special place on the dining room window sill each year. Day by day the windows are opened until December 25th. Many calendars are reuseable and have small decorations behind each numbered door. Choose one and use it each day.
Give to the Less Fortunate - Visit one of the "Giving" or "Angel" trees placed in many malls and department stores, where you can pick one (or several) ornament(s) listing the gift wish of a child. Purchase the items and deliver them to the collection point so they can be wrapped and distributed. Older children who have some money of their own may also find this a worthwhile activity and one that builds awareness and generosity.
Putting Up the Tree on a Specific Date - Pick your weekend -- whether it's Thanksgiving Friday, December 1st, or the second weekend in December -- make it a holiday tradition to get your tree on that date every year.
Special Ornaments - Perhaps you have a special tree topper, a set of antique ornaments, or handmade children's decorations... use these on your tree each year.
Opening Gifts - Children especially may find it helpful to know exactly when the gifts will be opened, so this is a perfect way to use a family tradition. You might open one gift on Christmas Eve morning, or after a special dinner in the evening. Open the rest on Christmas Day starting at 7AM. Put a clock by the tree so kids can count down the hours!
Food Traditions - Family recipes are often cherished harbingers of the holidays. Have a traditional holiday dinner menu every year. And make breakfast special as well. Serve a traditional beverage such as spiced cider, cocoa, mimosas, for special evenings or mornings. Choose things you enjoy making and love to eat.
Handing out the Gifts - Make it a tradition to distribute the gifts in a special way. In our family the children take turns putting on a reindeer headband (complete with felt antlers) and dashing about delivering gifts to the proper recipient. You might have a family member in a Santa suit to hand out gifts.
It doesn't matter so much which traditions you choose to observe as long as they are meaningful to you and your family. Incorporate things you love to do and they'll be a joy and not just another holiday chore.
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